Tis the Season to be Programmatic

Digital media and advertising technology companies have had a turbulent year. Advertising budgets started to swing away from traditional channels and methods but haven’t swung nearly as much as we would have hoped because of a lack of trust in programmatic.

We saw very specific issues rise to the top of the programmatic cons pile in 2015 but the good news is these are all problems that can be addressed and possibly even put to rest in 2016 - largely thanks to the work that has been done behind the scenes by tech companies.

We must however, learn from the problems we’ve faced this year if we’re to avoid the havoc and scrutiny we’ve experienced in 2015 repeating.

Stop adapting and start innovating

In this fairly nascent industry of programmatic video, many companies have attempted to cash in while cutting corners, augmenting legacy products with small fix tech, rather than building a sustainable, foolproof technology from the ground up. You just need to take a glance at one of the many digital 'lumascapes' to see how crowded the industry is with a multitude of different companies. But can you identify where the unique point of difference is? It's tricky for anyone to navigiate the maze of choice, let alone settle on the right partner.

Media is consumed very differently today, data is passed over and collected in milliseconds, people communicate, entertain and learn from all kinds of new sources, many of which are not ‘safe’ passages. Expecting a seamless experience for all, with no interference, with noone trying to take advantage, is pretty ludicrous. But in a world where everyone wants to be everything to all, there is a need for specialists who are concerned with identifying and building responses to digital advertising pitfalls. It’s these specialists who will facilitate improved performance and revenues in 2016, so don’t count them out.

In April 2015 the IAB with Advertiser Perceptions, reported 68% of marketers and agencies anticipated increasing their digital video ad spend over the next 12 months.

As marketers and agencies seek long term ROI, the trajectory toward programmatic video is accelerating. The perceived lack of premium video inventory called out by some in 2015, will become a relic mentality next year. The Definition of premium inventory has changed irrevocably and has surfaced to contain the same principle issues that caused such a raucous in programmatic - the very things video ad tech companies like Coull, are working hard to negate right now.

  • Is it viewable?

  • Is it brand safe?

  • Is it human?

We can break these areas down further into segments that give a better overview of the level of quality of the inventory. This comes down to how much we know about the inventory and where it comes from, something that is often limited by how much the publisher is willing to give away about their own data.

  • Player size

  • True url (where does the inventory originally come from)

  • Device

  • Geography

  • Relevance

It’s no secret programmatic video has endured a year of inefficiency, however according to emarketer ‘ad spend in programmatic video specifically is set to jump 84.5% in 2016, due to a resolution of holdbacks’.  Proprietary tech such as that built to drive Coull’s new generation video ad exchange, is stepping up to address and implement solutions to these holdbacks. Because we’ve built a new breed of ad exchange, we have rigorous standards specific to programmatic advertising and the expectation of quality inventory and premium CPMs.

New, quality inventory on demand

With subscription based video on demand now such a huge part of our entertainment lives, services such as Netflix, Now.TV and BBC iPlayer are competing for your dollars every month. There’s only so much appetising content audiences will be prepared to pay for. There is therefore a huge opportunity, especially in geographies like America where the competition for subscription dollars is rife, to implement advertising based services or AVOD (Advertiser based video on demand). As this happens, those ad dollars we’ve seen start to move from traditional broadcast, will quickly move to video and programmatic will become very important.

As more VOD services become available, it goes without saying that video will be increasingly consumed on mobile devices, and there is massive scope for improvement in mobile video advertising, but it's opportunity that needs to be realized quickly yet methodically.

Mobile video must be optimized

Mobile video is still not being optimized to full effect, but in 2016 we will see solutions emerge to provide better advertisement creative and more user control. This will not, NOT be another bullshit ‘year of mobile’. It will be a year of programmatic ad tech, being given the investment it needs across platforms to transform mobile advertising. It will see mobile video, not just in-app video be used to grab advertising budgets, but obviously, networks have their work cut out before any real improvements can be seen. For mobile advertising to succeed video publishers and platforms/players need to allocate budget and investment to upgrade and implement the development work needed to make video compliant and of consistent standard industry wide. And it needs agencies with creative gusto, willing to drive better ad formats and better stories, if they can’t do this, ad blockers will prevail as customers say no to bad experiences.

For any of this to happen, industry bodies need to step up and ensure video inventory is held to higher standards including or VPAID compliancy and that video players are up to spec. It’s time publishers ensured the video partner or player being used has to ability to integrate with tech partners to ensure standards and metrics can be met. This is really the only way we’re going to start seeing consistency in reporting and in expectations and it’s the only way to ensure viewers get the best experience possible. But doing this does demand time and money from publishers, so the incentive needs to be worth it.

‘Love plant a garden’ - but then 'they' put up walls, and the love died

Walled gardens amassed in 2015 but not without publishers taking notice and becoming much more self aware. In order to go around these walls, publishers began using header bidding and in doing so, gained back control from Google DFP.  As Google and Facebook work to keep content and data inside their own bubble, it’s up to publishers and advertisers to think about the value exchange their getting, and the brand ownership they wish to maintain.

It’s also up to independent companies with alternative ad exchange and technology platforms to provide better options for media companies to release their inventory, and also where advertisers can get the most for their money, and the best engagement from their customers.

With ad blocking, viewability, fraud, data security and bots all front in centre in 2015, better ad experiences, mobile video, programmatic video and better measurement standards will hopefully be the identifiers we speak about as growth stimulators and industry saviours in 2016.